Underground Music Showcase with a focus on mental health

Denver’s largest multi-day music festival kicks off this weekend and this year they plan to focus on a mission of mental health and sobriety

DENVER — Denver’s biggest multi-day music festival kicks off this weekend and this year they have a new focus and partnership with Youth on Record. The Underground Music Showcase (UMS) will perform on several stages along Broadway between Alameda Ave. and 6th Ave. rock while providing the performers and concertgoers with mental health support.

New to UMS this year, the Impact Show is part of a festival-wide focus on supporting mental wellbeing and preventing substance abuse among musicians and an expected 10,000 festival visitors. The festival also features Sober Bars, which will provide alternatives to traditional bars at each of the festival’s mainstage locations.

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“What we saw was an incredible community container of 10,000 people a day and 600 musicians a day in need of care and support,” said Jami Duffy, Executive Director of Youth on Record. “We got together and said, ‘What if we could make this really meaningful and really impactful in the field of mental health and artist care?’.”

Duffy is the new co-manager of the UMS festival and said they saw this as an opportunity to address mental health and sobriety concerns for their performers and attendees. The group said they hope to reduce stigma by providing health and accessible resources for wellness within a care community.

“The past two years have been brutal for a lot of people,” Duffy said. “So our focus on the festival on mental health really came from our community saying, ‘We need support, we need resources,’ and we thought, ‘Why don’t we combine them?’.”

Casey Berry is co-owner of the UMS festival and said they will have an ‘Artist Care Lounge’ this year where musicians can relax in an alcohol and substance free space. Artists have access to non-alcoholic drinks, yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, exercise and essential oils.

“I think we are so motivated to help our bands and our venues and everyone who works at the festival to take a second and appreciate themselves and the others around them, and we try to give as many resources as we can,” Berry said

UMS also has the support of the medical community. The Colorado Health Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Caring for Denver Foundation, and Colorado Enterprise Fund are early supporters of the music festival’s focus on mental wellness. According to festival organizers, young artists in Denver were 25% more likely to have mental health issues and substance abuse.

“It was brutal, so sad to lose artists,” Berry said. “I think everyone just assumes it’s a musician and their Instagram, but it’s a lot more, they have family, they have friends, they’re part of bands.”

Michelle Rocqet has been beatboxing and singing in a Denver band called The Milk Blossoms for the past 10 years. Rocqet is an artist of color and she says the music industry can be taxing.

“It comes with extra considerations, it comes with extra challenges and that starts to wear you out over time and so it’s really hard to be a color artist to see how your life is perceived by others.”

She said it was part of the reason she went into recovery for alcohol and substance abuse.

“I’ve been sober all through my 20s and now in my 30s and I’ve noticed how much the music industry is centered around drinking or drugs and substances.” said Rocket. “I lost my brother to a drug overdose in 2015 and I realize that’s unsustainable for artists.”

The organizers hope this festival will raise awareness about mental health and make an impact on the artists before and after they take the stage.

“We’re really committed to being part of the solution,” Berry said. “(We) are making changes to where people have access to mental health, access to sobriety, access to care while having a good time, that’s really what this year is all about.”

For more information about the Underground Music Showcase, please visit https://www.youthonrecord.org/underground-music-showcase.

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